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To see the way some D.C. councilmembers treated Travis Kalanick at a hearing last month, you would have thought they had cornered a master criminal.
Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham told Kalanick, the CEO of controversial sedan service Uber, that he “[didn’t] know him at all,” while Councilmember Mary Cheh argued with Kalanick over whether they were still in a fight.
Kalanick played the part right back, sulking that the city was trying to shut down his app-based company with new regulations. Later, another witness warned that Uber’s cars are the perfect weapon for terrorists.
The hyperbole is typical for the long-running feud between the District government and Uber, which has seen the District try to impose a price floor and new regulations on the company that Kalanick says would put him out of business in D.C.
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But if the D.C. Council is still making up its mind on Uber, Washingtonians aren’t. The City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show poll found that 59 percent of likely voters say the District should make it easier for Uber to operate in the city, while just 13 percent say the service is breaking the rules. Uber’s popularity was buoyed by the relentless mediocrity of the D.C. taxi cab industry, which a slim plurality of 43 percent of District voters reported being somewhat or very unsatisfied with.
And though the company seems, on the surface, to be the prototypical “myopic little twit” favorite, it’s popular citywide, the poll found. A majority of voters in every ward except Ward 7 think D.C. should give Uber a break, and even there, 43 percent supported the company. Uber was even more popular with people who’ve lived here between 10 and 20 years than among people who moved here in the last five.
District politicians, of course, may not need a poll to know Uber is widely beloved: The D.C. Council received thousands of emails in July, when lawmakers were considering new regulations for the service.
New competitors in the future could threaten Uber’s dominance in Washington’s cab dispatch market, but for now, Washingtonians want Uber in D.C.